This generation of parents, as with others in the past, wants to give our children all the opportunities that we did or never did have, and more. We want to be sure that any of the emotional scars that we endured through our childhood never happen to our children. Kudos to you; that’s what a parent is supposed to do. So we learned to build our children’s self-esteem, make him/her believe that s/he can do anything s/he wants to do in life, and protect that self-esteem from being damaged. To a great extent, this is true, but there are certain limits and pitfalls that parents need to be made aware of. We should praise our children for all of their accomplishments. However, to blow this praise out of proportion on a consistent basis builds a false sense of accomplishment that is bound to expose itself. When the child realizes, in his/her own test of reality, that his/her accomplishments are not so profoundly remarkable, the result is quite damaging. They resolve that they have been fooled by the people who profess the most love for them in the world, and then trust is often shattered for the duration of their lives, or after thousands of dollars invested in therapy. So in this age of the emphasis and preservation on self-esteem, a monster has been created. In fact, many monsters. These children have been raised with the sense of entitlement that befits princes and princesses. They feel that they are better than all the little people. They want praise, money, power, friendship and love without having to earn it. They feel entitled, period. When the rest of the world does not respond like Mommy and Daddy, they get angry, and often feel justified in taking what they want, or they become extremely depressed because they lack the skills necessary to actually earn what they want.
Now, every parent should raise their child with a sense of unconditional love, in that “You are part of our family. You are highly regarded here, and we will always love you.” You can even throw in, “You are very special to us, and you are a remarkable person. But always remember that everyone is remarkable in their way, too.” This makes the child feel very special at home, but puts them on an even playing field with the rest of the planet. A huge building block to self-esteem both inside and outside the family unit is the child’s ability to surmount obstacles. Too often, the watchful parent removes all obstacles and whisks the child away from any challenge that may bring a tear or two. Parents don’t understand that tears are not emotional scars; they are often a way to communicate or vent frustration or intrepidation. When the parent removes the child from the situation, the child has lost the opportunity to surmount the obstacle and thereby gain real confidence and self-esteem. When children get tired of various lessons before skills are mastered, parents often allow them to quit, giving temporary peace to the home. This is another opportunity lost. When a teen finds him/herself in the midst of peers with no skills, no ability to stand out, this leads to desperation or depression. If they don’t have the skills yet to work diligently, knowing from experience that they can surmount the obstacle, they get more depressed. When they have a history of being able to surmount life’s challenges and work hard at building skills, they gain true, lifelong self-esteem. This is earned self-esteem, and will last through the difficult teen years and on into adulthood.